2008 North Carolina Tar Heels Football Preview
UNC 2007 Record: (4-8, 3-5 ACC)
2007 Bowl: none
UNC Football Head Coach: Butch Davis (4-8 at North Carolina, 51-20 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: John Shoop
Defensive Coordinator: Everett Withers
Returning Leaders for UNC:
Other Key Returnees: CB Kendric Burney, LB Bruce Carter, G Calvin Darity, OT Kyle Jolly, OT Garrett Reynolds, WR Brandon Tate
Key Losses: DT Kentwan Balmer, K Connor Barth, C Scott Lenahan, LB Durell Mapp, DE Hilee Taylor
By most standards, 4-8 is not very good. But Coach Butch Davis still deserves some credit for mustering wins against Miami and Maryland in his first season at North Carolina. The 2007 Tar Heels were a very, very young team and now they hope that will pay off in 2008. It all starts with quarterback T.J. Yates. Thrown into the fire as a freshman, Yates completed nearly 60 percent of his passes and threw for 14 touchdowns. The 18 interceptions were a problem, but a year of experience should help. However, Yates missed most of the offseason after shoulder surgery and that will leave a little space for highly touted redshirt freshman Mike Paulus to make a run at playing time.
North Carolina's Strengths:
The quarterbacks will have plenty of options to throw to once again with the return of Hakeem Nicks, Brandon Tate and Brooks Foster. Nicks was the premiere wide receiver on the team, catching 74 passes for 958 yards. Tate and Foster combined for 896 yards on 54 catches. With a more experienced Yates and some more chemistry with his receivers, the passing attack could make big strides this season. But Yates will need some time. His offensive line did not give him much of any in 2007, but four starters do return. Garrett Reynolds and Kyle Jolly are solid tackles and Aaron Stahl will move to the center spot after starting 12 games at guard last year. The line should be better, but they need to be a lot better if the passing game is going to improve as much as the Tar Heels hope.
North Carolina's Weaknesses:
There are some holes to fill on defense, most notably in the frontline where Kentwan Balmer and Hilee Taylor are gone. Marvin Austin will join returning starter Aleric Mullins in the middle, but neither are as dominating as Balmer has been. But at least there is experience in the middle. On the end, it might come down to youngsters Darrius Massenburg and Darius Powell fighting for a starting gig. The back seven does not have nearly as many questions as the front four, but heading into the spring finding some depth in the secondary was a key step. It did not take long for that to happen. Johnny White, last year’s leading rushing, was moved to cornerback and junior Jordan Hemby spent his spring on the field instead of the sidelines. Add junior college transfer Melvin Williams to the mix and the secondary has certainly found its depth to add to the four returning starters.
The Bottom Line for the Tar Heels:
The running game was pretty bad last year. The team averaged less than 100 yards per game on the ground. Yet, there is a bright spot. Greg Little moved from wide receiver to running back for the last two games of his redshirt freshman campaign and tallied 243 yards. He will start off the season as North Carolina’s running back, but there is a little bit of depth with Ryan Houston and Devan Ramsey. However, the offensive line needs to drastically improve their run blocking or it will not matter how dynamic of a back Little ends up being.
2007 North Carolina Tar Heels Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 99.17 (107th in nation, 10th in conference)
Passing Offense: 226.17 (57, 5)
Total Offense: 325.33 (105, 10)
Scoring Offense: 21.17 (97, 9)
Rushing Defense: 142.50 (51, 9)
Pass Defense: 207.25 (27, 2)
Total Defense: 349.75 (35, 8)
Scoring Defense: 24.50 (43, 9)
Turnover Margin: -.50 (96, 10)
Sacks: 2.83 (22, 4)
Sacks Allowed: 3.08 (105, 9)
By Joel Welser
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